Periodic Table -> Ytterbium


Ytterbium Details

Ytterbium Symbol: Yb

Ytterbium Atomic Number: 70

Ytterbium Atomic Weight: 173.04

What is Ytterbium?

Ytterbium (symbol Yb, atomic number 70) is a naturally formed chemical element known to science since the 1840s.

The element's atomic weight is just over 173. Ytterbium has a melting point of 809 C, and boiling point of 1196 C. The element has a density of 6.9 grams per cubic centimetre. At room temperature, Ytterbium is in a solid state. As per the elements classification system, Ytterbium is metal. This is a ductile, malleable, and soft element with a silvery luster. It oxidizes when exposed to air and reacts with mineral acids. It is a rare earth element belonging to the lanthanide series. Its compounds are quite rare and include halides and oxides. The element reacts with bromine, chlorine, fluorine, and iodine. While this is a relatively stable element, closed containers are used to protect Ytterbium from moisture and air.

The gadonilite ore extracted from the mines and quarries around the Ytterby village had to be separated into its basic elements. A Swedish chemist by the name of Carl Gustaf Mosander was eventually able to do this in 1843. He separated the ore down to three basic elements which he called: erbia, terbia and yttria. As the names given to erbia and terbia were very similar, and so were their chemical and physical properties, Carl Mosander had to reverse the names of the two elements as the scientific community was rather confused by the similarities. The name reversal took place in 1877.
About a decade later, Jean C.G. de Marignac a Swiss chemist ran some tests and realised that the element which Mosander had earlier called erbia was in fact made of two other more basic components. He managed to separate the two and named one of them ytterbia, the other kept the name erbia. The person who got the credit for the official discovery of Ytterbium was the Swiss chemist Jean de Marignac.

Extraction Methods and Applications
In modern times, Ytterbium is extracted from rare earth minerals, mainly from monzonite sand, through a process known as ion exchange. Production may involve the use of potassium which reacts with Ytterbium trichloride. Annual production totals about 50 tonnes. The main mining sites are found in Australia, Sri Lanka, India, Brazil, the United States, and China. Ytterbium has only a few uses, though they are quite useful. Ytterbium is used to improve certain mechanical properties of stainless steel through adding it in the steel in order to create an alloy. Ytterbium is also sometimes used as a so called doping agent in fibre optic cables where it amplifies signals travelling back and forth. Portable X-ray machines also make use of certain isotopes contained in Ytterbium.

Biological Role, Health Effects, and Toxicity
There is no known biological role. However, Ytterbium causes eye and skin irritations. Its compounds are very toxic and are kept in closed containers. Ytterbium dust is considered an explosion and fire hazard.

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